Lastest news

Tax

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme has ceased as of August 2020, but what does this mean for employers and their employees in terms of tax liabilities? Olive O’Donoghue explores the different options available. While the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) ceased at the end of August 2020, there are three main projects to be completed before the scheme will be fully closed off:  Revenue’s reconciliation; finalisation of employer compliance checks; and payment of employee taxes. The main objective of the reconciliation process is to ensure Revenue recoup any excess subsidy paid to employers. While the expectation would be that most overpayments occurred in the Transitional Phase of the TWSS (mainly because, for the first few weeks, employers received a flat €410 per eligible employee per week irrespective of the amount due), it is possible that overpayments may also have occurred for other reasons. For example, a clawback of subsidy would also be required where an employer has paid an employee more than their average revenue net weekly pay. All employers who availed of the TWSS should have already submitted details of subsidies paid to employees over the course of the scheme. Following receipt of these files, we understand that the reconciliation process is underway. While we expect this process to be finalised by the end of 2020, a fixed date has not yet been provided by Revenue. The employer compliance checks continue and, while many employers have already received the letters from Revenue, a number are still issuing. Throughout the operation of the TWSS, Revenue stated that it would adopt a pragmatic approach in assessing an employer’s eligibility for the scheme, and the experience with compliance checks supports this. It is worth noting that Revenue is utilising the compliance check process as an opportunity to raise queries/concerns on PAYE real time reporting issues, so employers should be mindful of this as they move through the compliance process. The tax treatment of subsidies payable under the TWSS has been a contentious issue amongst employers and employees, mainly due to the impact this treatment has to an eligible employee’s overall net pay position for 2020. While there has been significant push back from various bodies and interested parties over the last few months, unfortunately Revenue’s position remains that the TWSS will be subject to income tax and USC. In January, all eligible employees will receive a preliminary end of year statement from Revenue via Revenue’s MyAccount. This will show an employee’s estimated tax liability for 2020 – or, in some cases, a refund. The employee may wish to claim additional reliefs, such as medical expenses, additional pension contributions, etc. Once the final liability is determined, the employee can choose how they would like it to be settled. The employee may choose to settle the liability in full, directly with Revenue, make a part-payment to Revenue upfront with the balance being paid by way of reduced tax credits over four years from 2022, or elect for the full liability to be settled by way of reduced credits over four years from 2022. Recently, Revenue helpfully issued an update advising employers that they can settle the employees’ tax liabilities arising from the TWSS without a gross-up being required through payroll. The guidance notes that employers can make a payment to each employee to settle their liability directly with Revenue or, alternatively, an employer may choose to amend their last payroll submission for 2020 to capture the additional income tax and USC due by the employee. Further details on this can be found on revenue.ie. Olive O’Donoghue is a Director of Tax in KPMG.

Nov 20, 2020
News

With many of us working remotely for now, it is imperative that Irish tax rules around the 'normal' place of work, as well as expenses, are re-evaluated. Colin Smith explains. The Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) recently published the results of its remote working consultation held in August. While submissions to the DBEI covered a wide range of topics, nearly 200 of the 520 submissions raised tax and financial remote work-related concerns. The CCAB-I was among the submissions to outline tax problems in the context of remote working. A special interdepartmental group has been set up to take over for the DBEI to work on the Programme for Government’s promise to develop a remote working strategy. Current measures As outlined by the Minister on Budget Day, there are tax measures in place, to some extent, to support remote workers: Employers can contribute up to €3.20 per day to cover the employee’s additional costs of working from home, such as electricity, heat and broadband, without triggering a charge to benefit-in-kind (BIK). Many employers cannot afford to make such a contribution in the current economic climate. In the UK, the Government provides tax relief of £1.20 per week to lower-rate taxpayers and £2.40 per week to higher-rate taxpayers, when workers are required to work from home due to COVID-19 restrictions. The UK measure is modest, but it’s easy to claim the relief and it recognises that workers are out of pocket due to the restrictions. A similar measure should be considered by the Irish Government. Employees not in receipt of a contribution from an employer can make a claim for tax relief directly from Revenue of 10% of the cost of electricity and heat as apportioned over the number of days worked at home over the year. Revenue recently announced that it will also allow a claim for 30% of the cost of broadband apportioned over the number of days worked at home over the year. An employee working from home cannot claim tax relief for the purchase of work-related equipment such as computers and office furniture. However, the employer can provide such equipment to the employee and a BIK charge will not arise so long as private use is minimal. Employees can make a claim for tax relief directly from Revenue for other vouched expenses incurred “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” in the performance of the duties of their employment. Revenue applies a strict interpretation on the meaning of wholly, exclusively, and necessarily based on case law: an employee can only claim a deduction where the expense is incurred entirely in the performance of their duties, the employee is required to incur the expense in the performance of their duties, and they could not have carried out their duties without incurring the expense. These are complex rules and the odds of making a successful claim are stacked against the employee in the context of working from home. Fairer and more accessible tax rules must be developed as part of an effective strategy for remote working. ‘Normal’ place of work As set out in the CCAB-I’s submission to DBEI, an employee’s normal place of work is central to the tax treatment of travel and subsistence reimbursements to employees. Revenue holds the position that an employee’s home does not qualify as a normal place of work other than in exceptional circumstances and this brings complexity to what should be a straightforward matter. Employees and employers have risen to the challenge of new work practices as necessitated by COVID-19, and Irish tax rules must now align with these practices by re-evaluating what is a ‘normal’ place of work for tax purposes and the rules for tax deductible expenses of employment. Colin Smith is a Tax Partner at PwC and member of CCAB-I Tax Committee South.

Nov 20, 2020
News

The government has recently announced details of a new support scheme for businesses, but it has limitations that need to be addressed. Paul Dillon outlines the role Chartered Accountants must play to raise awareness of these limitations. Details of the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), announced as part of Budget 2021, were recently published by Revenue and registration for the scheme has officially opened. By offering a support of up to €5,000 per week, the scheme will be very valuable to businesses impacted by Government health and safety restrictions. However, the biggest hurdle for businesses will be meeting the many terms and conditions necessary to qualify. To begin with, the guidance issued by Revenue is over 45 pages long. While detailed guidance is always helpful, the length of the guidance speaks volumes about the complexity of the scheme. Further, it piles more paperwork on businesses already struggling to stay on top of the demands of operating under lockdown conditions. These same businesses continue to grapple with paperwork for the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) by having to respond to compliance check letters and reconciliations for Revenue, which all 66,000 employers who benefited from the scheme must prepare. The CRSS is only available to businesses operating from premises that restricts customers from access due to COVID-19 restrictions. This means that the scheme benefits retailers, restaurants, pubs and entertainment venues, but it cannot be accessed by the many suppliers of these businesses, even though these suppliers are equally impacted by the negative effects of the Government’s COVID-19 restrictions. For example, wholesalers supplying to restaurants, pubs and hotels do not qualify for the CRSS under the current terms of the scheme. Sound engineers who supply their services to the live entertainment sector do not qualify for this subsidy, and all the businesses who provide services to theatres and shows are also excluded from CRSS. Mobile businesses not tied to a fixed premise are also precluded from accessing the scheme. This includes taxis and businesses operated from stalls, such as markets or trade fairs. It is puzzling why the Government has chosen to exclude these businesses from qualifying for the CRSS, especially given the fact that on Budget Day, Minister Donohoe said, “The scheme is designed to assist those businesses whose trade has been significantly impacted or temporarily closed as a result of the restrictions as set out in the Government’s ‘Living with Covid-19’ Plan.” This messaging gave hope to many businesses; however, those hopes were dashed when further details revealed the condition that only businesses operating from a fixed premises with restricted customer access could benefit from the scheme. As Government restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 are likely to be a feature of life in Ireland in 2021, it is essential that proper supports are in place to help all businesses impacted by the restrictions, like the wholesalers and businesses supplying services to restaurants and hotels. The CRSS will be a lifeline to many businesses and its only fair that the scheme should apply to all businesses impacted. While Government has demonstrated a willingness to revise and refine supports, like the TWSS, it is only when the issues are brought into the public domain by informed commentary. That is why, as Chartered Accountants, we have a role to play in raising awareness of the limitations of the CRSS and lobbying for change. Paul Dillon is Deputy Chair of the Tax Committee South of the CCAB-I and Taxation Partner in Duignan Carthy O'Neill.

Nov 20, 2020
Ethics and Governance

A recent ICS survey has identified a serious gap in board members’ oversight of cyber-resilience. Bob Semple analyses the data and explains the practical steps board members can take to better protect their organisations. When it comes to cyber resilience, boards members’ lack of capability and confidence is undermining their ability to do their core job: directing and overseeing. That is the conclusion of a recent Irish Computer Science (ICS) survey of board members of Irish organisations (many of whom are Chartered Accountants). And when cyberattacks today are potentially as destructive as major natural disasters, that’s bad news. The ICS survey was undertaken to determine how well-protected Irish organisations are. What was found makes for sobering reading: one in three board members have received no cyber training in the last year; less than two in five have been properly briefed on cyber developments; an alarming three quarters have never participated in a test of their board’s cyber incident response plan (if it even exists); as many as one in six had no Statement of Risk Appetite at all, let alone one that properly reflected the board’s attitude to cyber-resilience; and one in ten respondents confessed they had never briefed staff on the importance their board attaches to cyber-resilience. 'Noses in, hands-off' (but check!) Good governance requires boards to adopt a 'noses in, hands-off' approach. But, as case law has reminded us, this does not absolve the board of its responsibility to ensure that tasks delegated to management are completed to their satisfaction. For their part, management must be able to identify: the assets they are trying to protect; the key risks affecting them; the controls that appropriately mitigate those risks; and the plans that enable the organisation to bounce back from an attack. The smartest organisations realise that they are past the point of being always able to repel the bad actors. Instead, the goal is to ensure that companies can recover quickly and effectively from a successful breach of defences. The ICS survey revealed serious gaps in each of these links in the chain of defence against cyberattacks. Assurance Increasingly, board members are asking: Where am I getting assurance about risks, controls and resilience? How valuable is that assurance? Is it sufficient for me as a board member? What other assurance should I be seeking? The ICS survey revealed that one in three respondents have never obtained formal assurance from management on these issues. Furthermore, only half of respondents said that they had obtained assurance after independent testing by a third-party. Practical guidance Cyberattacks are increasing in number, sophistication, and impact. Board members need to ask more questions, strengthen their defences, and get more assurance to ensure that their organisations are cyber-resilient. You can find the report – with details of the practical steps board members can take - here: www.ics.ie/cyberresilience. Bob Semple is a Director and Governance Consultant.

Nov 13, 2020
News

It is a truth universally known that a bad to-do list can have a detrimental effect on productivity. Seán McLoughney shares his tips to help you transform how you plan and schedule your key activities. “Do you use a to-do list to help plan your time and be more efficient?” This is the opening question I ask at my time management workshops. Most people enthusiastically indicate that they do use a to-do list. Those who do not use them will often apologise for their apparent lack of planning skills. However, my next question always leads to an interesting discussion: “How effective is your to-do list?” I find that they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. In fact, you can waste a significant amount of time writing to-do lists with little benefit gained. Traditional to-do lists fail for many reasons; they are unstructured, contain too many items, are rarely prioritised correctly, and can be overwhelming. They also fail because people are unable, or unwilling, to manage themselves and their reactions to the behaviour of others. Further, most people do not estimate correctly the length of time each task will take. It is not surprising, then, that the completion of these lists rarely happens as planned. The ‘Make it Happen, Always’ approach You can transform your underperforming to-do list using a ‘Make it Happen, Always’ approach. This method is designed to give you a set of tools and techniques that will change the way you plan your schedule, adding consistency and collaboration to the way you work. Your to-do list tells you what you already know; this approach is a blueprint for your successful completion of the tasks that are of real value to you. A great place to start is by planning and scheduling important activities to ensure that the right tasks get done consistently, as well as protecting your time so that the important things do not get dropped. Begin your plan by reviewing your list of tasks and then prioritise them based on importance and impending deadlines. Developing the skill of prioritising will allow you to consistently work on important jobs and tasks rather than fuelling a non-productive ‘always too busy’ culture. Next, schedule these important tasks into your diary so that you can have a complete overview of all your daily activities. Factor in how long each task will take, and assign a start and an estimated finish time – similar to the way you would schedule a meeting. This will allow you to establish how many activities you can realistically complete each day. Estimating the time each task will take is an essential part of time management. As this scheduling habit becomes embedded in your way of working, you will then start to schedule your week and month. Using your diary in this way will allow you to stay ahead of deadlines and anticipate any potential bottlenecks. What to avoid Avoid filling each day with tasks, meetings and other activities. Always leave time for some unexpected crisis or important last-minute task. This wriggle room will give you the scope to reorganise your schedule if something unexpected lands on your desk without compromising an important task already scheduled. I tend to front-load my day with activities and leave the wriggle room for later in the afternoon. Time management is a core business skill that must be learned to deliver high performance and drive a business forward. It is time to move away from the traditional underperforming to-do lists and start using a new approach to transform the way you plan and schedule your key activities. Seán McLoughney is the founder of LearningCurve and author of Time Management.

Nov 13, 2020
News

How can we make sense of a seemingly random event like the COVID-19 pandemic? Tom Armstrong talks about coping and the critical role of human support and interaction in helping us navigate the road to recovery. We are now close to one year on from the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Asia, and the negative impact of this random event is more evident than ever. People feel less safe, less in control, more vulnerable, less confident, and more anxious than before. Those suffering most may be asking why now, and why me? A recent read of Ronnie Janoff-Bulman’s book, Shattered Assumptions, compelled me to fully consider the impact of random events like COVID-19, where so much of the immediate impact is negative. It is difficult to say where this pandemic lies on the trauma scale. Many people have had little impact on physical health, work, and mental wellbeing. However, many others have been affected through the loss of loved ones, loss of livelihood, having to put life progression on hold, and general anxiety about the state of the world. How can those who have suffered cope? I think we can divide coping into some broad areas. Self-help Create a routine, eat well, take regular exercise, maintain a journal, spend time in nature, spend less time looking at mobile devices, watch a good movie, meditate, sing, start a new hobby or make a simple daily plan. These things are within our control and are good for our wellbeing, regardless of the degree to which COVID-19 has impacted us. Interpretation of events Our interpretation of life events is shaped by our life experience and tends to be the result of unconscious processes. However, over time and through reflection, we can work on the meaning of events. While not deluding ourselves, we can reframe events. This work enables us to incorporate, and make meaning of, what has happened in our world. For example, maybe this crisis has given us time to spend more time with family, really listen to the opinions of those we differ with, hear the birds sing, or appreciate the flowers in full bloom. Maybe, because of this pandemic, we’re learning to be more considerate, appreciate the simple things in life, and be grateful for what we have. Take action Taking our own actions is important to give ourselves a sense of control and the feeling of agency over our lives. While our ability to take specific actions may be restricted right now, there are still many areas of our lives where we can make our own choices – calling a friend, getting up early, going for a walk/run and so on. In time, our feeling of freedom to take more action will return. Support This is a two-way street where we can both receive and give support. It is a dynamic process. What does this support look like? It can be material support, such as money or services, or it can be information support – tools and advice about resources that are available to help a person in need. Equally, it can simply take the form of listening, empathising, accepting, and valuing another person. Because we are fundamentally social beings, social support is critical for our sense of self-worth. Social support is positively associated with psychological wellbeing and mental health. We all can offer support and a supportive environment to those who need it. The road ahead There will be a return to more ‘normal’ times when social restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, we all have the choice to support and help each other as we navigate the current challenges and seek to reach the other side safely. We may get bruised along the way, but when it’s over, we will have survived and through our actions and experience, we can be wiser, stronger and more human. Tom Armstrong is an Executive Coach, Facilitator, Mentor and Chartered Accountant.

Nov 13, 2020